Un­der­stand­ing nar­cis­sism

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - YOUR DAILY BREAK - An­nie Lane

DEAR AN­NIE >> I am writ­ing in re­sponse to the let­ter from “Con­cerned CareDaugh­ter,” who said she was ap­proach­ing care­giver burnout. It sounds to me like she is very em­pathic, and her older sis­ter may have some nar­cis­sist traits. Nar­cis­sis­tic traits in­clude be­ing dis­mis­sive of other peo­ple’s points of view and be­ing very con­trol­ling.

My mother had many strong nar­cis­sis­tic traits, and I had to learn to set bound­aries the hard way. I’ve found heal­ing through un­der­stand­ing by read­ing books and watch­ing videos on this topic, in­clud­ing on YouTube. I might not have a pro­fes­sional back­ground in this, but I have learned a great deal.

Nar­cis­sists be­lieve they are spe­cial and think they know more than oth­ers do. When prob­lems come along, they blame other peo­ple be­cause they don’t make mis­takes (or so they be­lieve). They can be ridicu­lously de­fen­sive. They can­not say phrases like, “You make a good point,” or “Thanks for the in­put,” or “I was wrong,” or “Can you help me un­der­stand?” In­stead, they mis­man­age anger and can have tem­per tantrums, or they can be pas­sive-ag­gres­sive if you don’t agree with them. They don’t care how you feel, or how or why you pri­or­i­tize things the way that you do. Nar­cis­sists will wear out their re­la­tion­ships. They’re ex­as­per­at­ing and frus­trat­ing to take care of, so they have a lot of bro­ken, strained and dif­fi­cult re­la­tion­ships, es­pe­cially later in life.

Em­paths, on the other hand, in­tu­itively pick up on other peo­ple’s feel­ings. They can deeply un­der­stand an­other per­son’s point of view. They have a pas­sion to be help­ful; they are sen­si­tive and are deeply moved by beauty. They love to help the un­der­dog. Em­paths tend to be ide­al­ists. One of their fa­vorite phrases is, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

Un­for­tu­nately, the nar­cis­sist tends to be ex­ploita­tive and highly con­trol­ling. And when they meet an em­path, they can think, “Now what can I do with that per­son that’s go­ing to make me feel bet­ter and will help me?” They can try to take ad­van­tage of the em­path’s de­sire to help peo­ple.

So it’s im­por­tant for the em­path to learn to set bound­aries with a nar­cis­sist. It won’t change the be­hav­ior of the nar­cis­sist, but the em­paths can learn to pro­tect them­selves from that be­hav­ior and not have the words of a nar­cis­sist carry much weight. By do­ing this, em­paths can prac­tice emo­tional de­tach­ment from nar­cis­sists, un­hook­ing from car­ing what they think. They should not let the nar­cis­sist de­fine who they are. It’s OK to de­cide how much to do as a care­taker and stick with it. I find phrases like, “That doesn’t work for me,” and, “Well, it’s not go­ing to work out, is it,” very help­ful. — Em­pathic Daugh­ter of a Nar­cis­sist

DEAR DAUGH­TER OF A NAR­CIS­SIST >> I am very sorry that you had a mother like that. But talk about mak­ing le­mon­ade out of a lemon. You healed your­self by un­der­stand­ing your mother’s way of be­ing and all the while set­ting bound­aries to pro­tect your­self. I com­mend you fully. Thank you for your let­ter. I hope it helps other peo­ple deal­ing with nar­cis­sists in their lives.

“Ask Me Any­thing: A Year of Ad­vice From Dear An­nie” is out now! An­nie Lane’s de­but book — fea­tur­ing fa­vorite col­umns on love, friend­ship, fam­ily and eti­quette — is avail­able as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.cre­ator­spub­lish­ing.com for more in­for­ma­tion. Send your ques­tions for An­nie Lane to dear­an­[email protected]­ators.com.

You healed your­self by un­der­stand­ing your mother’s way of be­ing and all the while set­ting bound­aries to pro­tect your­self.

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